Lawmaker details how proposed 15-week abortion ban would have impacted her abnormal pregnancy

The phrase " Abortion = human rights " drawn on a carton banner in hand. Movement against the prohibition on abortion. A girl holds a cardboard with an inscription. Women's rights protest. Rally
Democratic lawmakers say the proposed abortion ban assaults women's human rights.

Democratic state and congressional leaders marked the 49th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade court ruling by blasting state Republicans’ efforts to ban abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy — with one legislator telling her own pregnancy story Monday.

Florida legislators have proposed an abortion law that would make Florida more like Mississippi. And Democratic leaders such as U.S. Reps. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, Charlie Crist, Lois Frankel and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and state Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book held an online news conference Monday highlighting how women’s reproductive freedoms are under renewed assault, even for those impregnated through rape and incest. And it’s happening even though most Americans support those rights.

Democratic state Rep. Robin Bartleman of Weston said that the time it took to find out about a fetal abnormality and the struggle with what to do would have put her over that proposed 15-week limit.

“I had the ability to make that decision. I had the ability to weigh the pros and cons and the impact on my family,” Bartleman said. “I was able to debate with just my husband, my doctor and my God, not the Florida Legislature.”

Bartleman’s pregnancy ultimately terminated without an abortion, but Bartleman said she doesn’t want to see women have to reckon with anyone outside their own families as they make intensely personal decisions about their lives.

“Politicians want to find their way into your homes, your doctor offices and exam rooms and tell you what you can do with your body,” Bartleman said. “Women like me need to have the ability to make these decisions on their own without any interference from the government.”

The legislation (SB 146 and HB 5) would ban most abortions once the 15-week mark of pregnancy has passed. The bill sponsors — Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel and GOP Rep. Erin Grall — proposed legislation that mirrors a Mississippi law currently facing a challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court last month signaled an inclination to uphold the law, however.

That law does not go as far as a bill in Texas that bans abortion after six weeks. Republican Rep. Webster Barnaby proposed a bill (HB 167) that mirrors the Texas legislation. The Supreme Court has allowed that six-week limit to stand while the substance of the law is challenged. The landmark Roe v. Wade ruling on Jan. 22, 1973, allows abortion up until the fetus is viable outside the womb.

Wasserman Schultz denounced the “barbaric new laws” the Supreme Court’s new majority appears poised to uphold. She called on Florida lawmakers to consider whether they want Florida in the same category as Texas and Mississippi. She warned about the anger that anti-choice laws could unleash.

“Our state thrives on women — moms and families — choosing Florida as a vacation destination time and time again,” Wasserman Schultz said. “Yet with the proposed 15-week ban, Florida’s conservative lawmakers are slapping those decision-makers in the face, blatantly disrespecting their autonomy and dignity.”

Book vowed to give anti-choice legislators the “fight of their lives” if the legislation moves forward.

“This is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt at controlling women’s choices, our voices and our lives with no exemption for rape, incest or human trafficking,” she said. “As a survivor of sexual assault and simply as a human being, I am appalled, disgusted by the very consideration of all these measures as cruel and unusual punishments.”

A number of the assembled lawmakers accused Gov. Ron DeSantis of calling Florida the freest state while making it less so for those who have uteruses.

“They have the audacity and the hypocrisy to do everything in their power to try to do exactly what they criticize and object to when it comes to vaccinations and the COVID-19 pandemic — it’s just stunning, stunning,” Wasserman Schultz said. “You are either for bodily autonomy … or you’re not. They are not consistent. They want to control women’s bodies. That is an autocratic, ancient age-old tradition of mostly men who simply want to be able to take women’s rights away and treat us as if we are not human beings that can make our own decisions.”

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].

One comment

  • Ron Ogden

    January 25, 2022 at 8:34 am

    ““I was able to debate with just my husband, my doctor and my God, not the Florida Legislature.”

    What kind of sublime self-conceit does it take to assert that one went toe-to-toe with God? Well, I’ll tell you what kind. The kind Lucifer himself possessed when he said, “I’m a better God than you.”

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